York Food and Drink Festival

Georgia Lambert visits the York Food Festival to see how they are promoting local retailers, celebrating independent chefs, and serving up a delicious weekend of food.

Looking through the centre of York Food Festival, showing the dappled coverage of trees and food tents lining St Helens Square
(Image: Georgia Lambert)

This weekend (25th September 2020) marks the 23rd anniversary of York Food and Drink Festival, located on Parliament Street and Shambles Market.

With a buzzing atmosphere and living up to its slogan: “Independent and Proud”, the festival aims to promote local produce in York, with independently owned businesses taking centre stage.

This year’s festival consists of a reduced 15 participants, and 24 traders to remain within COVID-19 regulations. 

The festival aims to cater for all age ranges and culinary interests. From York’s notorious award winning gins to tantalising chocolate treats, there’s something to excite everyone’s taste buds. 

Image: Georgia Lambert

Worried about the student budget? The outdoor market stalls and selected food demonstrations are free to visit, with any profit from ticket sales funding next year’s festival, in association with York City Council. 

Sadly, the event has been changed from the usual 10-day celebration to a three day COVID-19 debut.

Michael Hjort, the Festival’s Artistic Director, acknowledged the alterations: “this is not the normal festival,” he said in an exclusive interview with York Vision.

When asked whether the pandemic would result in a reduced attendance this year, Hjort admitted: “some people obviously will be put off”, whilst enforcing that “a lot has been done to make it COVID-safe”. 

Image: Georgia Lambert

This has included a further emphasis on activities “that can be done in the open air or semi-open air in the current weather”, allowing for “household groups” to witness “chef demonstrations and trails around the city centre”. 

With the aim of cementing York as a “culinary hotspot”, the festival embodies the city’s historical roots. Widely known as the birthplace of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, York City Centre will promote trading stalls from York Cocoa Works and brownie specialists: Brown and Blond.

In addition to wine tasting events, the market hosts a vast variety of Yorkshire gin companies, including Cottingley Gin, Yorkshire Bartender, and York Gin Company, with the latter promoting their 100% plastic-free products.

While there remains no street food on offer this year, the food demonstrations promote the interactive element of the festival.

Hosting many critically acclaimed chefs, this year’s festival welcomes Andrew Pern, a Yorkshire born chef and owner of the Michelin Star restaurant, The Star at Harome.

Food demos will also be available from: Steph Moon, a Great British Menu contestant, Neil Bentinck, Head Chef and owner of the restaurant Skosh, and Alessandro Venturi, the “MaestroBaker”, who opened his new venture at Spark in March. 

Image credit: Georgia Lambert

Although the main event takes place this weekend, York will host a Chocolate Festival from 1-5 April 2021, and a Taster Festival on 12-13 June 2021. 

For more information on ticketed activities and the weekend programme, visit www.yorkfoodfestival.com